Steep learning curve for Kaden Hopkins in maiden European outing
Kaden Hopkins admitted his maiden outing as an Equipo Essax rider competing in the Cirilo Memorial Zunzarren proved a steep learning curve.
The 20-year-old was handed a baptism of fire in his first taste of riding in Europe as he and his new team-mates took on the gruelling 141.6-kilometre course through the town of Estella-Lizarra in a mountainous region of Spain.
Having pushed the limit in an attempt to close the gap to the leading pack, one particular excruciating climb ended Hopkins’s pursuit and ultimately his race.
Despite not finishing the race, in which Britain’s Tobias Perry claimed victory,, the Bermudian rider remained upbeat about his performance and reflected on the invaluable experience gained.
“Even though I didn’t finish the race, it was still a great experience,” said Hopkins, who signed a one-year deal with the elite under-23 team of the illustrious Spanish Sax Cycling Club at the end of last year.
“It was definitely a proud moment. For me it was going into the unknown, not only as my first race with the team but also competing in Europe.
“It was a really good experience and definitely showed me where I need to be and what I have to do to improve.
“Going into the race, I knew it was going to be harder than anything I’ve ever done before physically as well as holding my position.
“It was one climb in particular that I lost about 60 metres and normally that wouldn’t be an issue, but riding into the wind it became impossible for me to close the gap.
“I know it will take time to get up to speed and get used to the distance of some of the big climbs, but overall I’m happy with my first outing.”
Reflecting further on the race, Hopkins conceded he faced an uphill struggle from the outset with the overwhelming strength in depth of rival teams Lizarte and Laboral Kuxta-Fundacion Euskrad proving decisive. Eight of the top ten finishers represented either of those two teams.
“The two bigger teams who were so deep in strength just controlled the peloton all day,” he added.
“They just upped the pace when they needed to and controlled things throughout. It proved a constant fight just to be able to stay with the riders at the front.
“It was a bit of an eye opener, even though I expected it could be that way. I thought I’d struggle with the physical side of the race, but it was actually harder being able to get where I needed to be within the race.
“However, my team director was happy with how I performed and my team-mates told me my positioning was good throughout, so that was great to hear.
“It has given me a clear gauge of where I need to be going forward and it’s a case of learning and progressing; that’s the key thing.”
Progression will remain the focus for Hopkins in the coming weeks as he and his team-mates continue their preparations for the Spanish Cup, the most prestigious amateur race in Spain.
“Going into the next race I’m aware of where I’m at and what needs to be done,” he said. ”I’ve certainly learnt a lot from my first race.
“That race and the next couple coming up are all stand-alone races. We are building up to the Spanish Cup, which will be a really challenging race as all of the best riders will be competing in that.
“The next couple of races will be about trying to get up to speed for that and making sure I’m as ready as possible.”